On a rare warm evening in Oakland, CA, two Nima staffers walked into a bar. One of them a gluten-sensitive foodie, the other a self-professed beer nerd who’s tasted and rated over 2000 unique beers.
It wasn’t just any bar, it was The Good Hop. A bar and bottle shop known for their extensive selection, being women owned & LGBTQ friendly, and a community favorite. (Shout out to our knowledgeable and patient host, Cory!)
We were there for an event of special interest to our Nima community members, a gluten-free and gluten-removed tasting session. The shop offered tastings of 2 gluten removed beers, 2 gluten-free beers, and one cider, along with a lively discussion on the difference between gluten removed and gluten-free beer.
As a reminder, Nima can’t test beer as the gluten protein is hydrolyzed during fermentation. As usual, we encourage community members to research ahead of time, talk to staff, and be discerning when they try new products.
There are two primary methods of creating what is sometimes referred to as “gluten friendly” beer:
The traditional grains used in non GF beers are barley, wheat & oatmeal. All gluten powerhouses. But gluten-free beers are made with grains that are naturally gluten-free, such as sorghum and millet. Beers made from these alternative grains should have 0 PPM gluten.
An approach that employs Brewers Clarex, an enzyme that brewers have long used to clarify (pre haze craze) beer for looks and added stability. When used for removing gluten, Brewers Clarex binds to Prolamin, the protein that causes issues for people sensitive to gluten, and consumes it.
The Difference & Debate
It’s important note that the non-profit The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), known for their Gluten-Free Certification, commissioned a study that found “a strong response from CD patients in the absence of equivalent reactions from normal control subjects would suggest that there are residual peptides in [gluten removed beer] that may be specifically recognized by persons with CD”. Based on the study, GIG released an official statement saying that beer labeled as “gluten-removed” may not be safe for celiac patients.
Now that our thirst for knowledge is quenched, on to the beer! Please note that the info about the brewing process for each individual beer and cider listed below was passed along from the brewers during the event.
Propaganda Pils – Gluten Removed
Description: Pilsner 6% ABV
Berryessa Brewing Co. is renowned for their refreshing and flavorful hoppy ales and lagers. It’s no surprise their Pils was fantastic. I would schlep a six pack to Lake Berryessa on a hot day.
The Pils is gluten removed using White Lab’s Brewers Clarex. Coming in at 20 ppm gluten or less. It’s golden-straw colored, clear and well carbonated. Notes (beer nerd for flavor) were crisp & refreshing with light honeydew melon & hibiscus presence.
FKT – Gluten Removed
Description: Pale Ale with Black Currant & Salt 5.5% ABV
Sufferfest is athlete oriented, women owned, and a San Francisco native. Their take on why many cultures use “to your health” as the way to cheer before sipping beer just makes sense to us.
The beer is gluten removed using White Lab’s Brewers Clarex. At 10 PPM gluten or less. Copper colored, a bit hazy and with medium carbonation. Black Currant added for vitamin C boost gave the beer a strong nose (beer nerd for smell) and a mild flavor, salt added for electrolytes and as a nod to the German Gose style. FKT was our staff’s favorite for the delicate fruit notes and solid Pale backbone.
Pale – Gluten-free
Brewery: Ground Breaker
Description: Pale Ale 5.8% ABV
These proud Portlanders are a “Dedicated Gluten-Free Brewery & Gastropub Making 100% Gluten-Free Beer & Food”. They even sponsor and host a competition for homebrewers making gluten-free brews (likely in their garages and basements).
This beer is gluten-free by nature. Made with sorghum, chestnut, and tapioca. It carries the Certified GF icon on the label. The beer is copper colored, clear and has a nutty flavor followed by Belgian yeast notes common in Dubbel and Tripel beer. The label says they use Belgian style Candi Syrup.
Stout – Gluten-free
Description: Stout 5% ABV
This Montreal-based is 100% GF brewing powerhouse with a full line-up of 0.0 PPM gluten beer.
The low ABV stout was opaque black, has sweet chocolate milk and coffee notes, all carried on a pretty thin body for the style.
All the Good Hopped Names Were Taken – Gluten-free
Cidery: South City Ciderworks
Description: Dry-hopped Cider 6.9% ABV
A craft cidery right here in the Bay Area? Yes, please! Started in 2015, South City makes cider for the picky and appreciative West Coast beer and cider connoisseur. Cider has long been a go-to for the GF community when in need of a refreshing adult beverage. The craft cider industry is experiencing a similar boom to the craft beer one in recent years. Keep your eyes peeled for more cideries and specialty cider bars in a trendy neighborhood near you.
This very-long-named cider blends semi-sweet apples and hops for a crisp, light, low bitterness cider that has slight funk on the nose. Perfect for an afternoon at Ocean Beach with a side of bonfire.
Although we weren’t able to test the gluten-free and gluten removed beers, or the ciders – we were able to test some of the snacks provided!
Nima testing Sea Salt & Vinegar chips! After getting a smile, we noshed on these tasty chips with our brews.
While there’s a lot of controversy around gluten removed and gluten-free beer, there are a wide range of other gluten-free alcohols that folks can enjoy. Do you have any favorite gluten-free beers or ciders? Let us know in the comments below!